AU Coaches Impressed by Senior Hurdler

Knoxville, Tenn.--SEC hurdles champion Josanne Lucas and her teammates will spend Friday and Saturday at the NCAA Mideast Regional Track and Field Championships trying to make sure they run well enough to advance to the NCAA Championships in June.

Lucas will be one of the favorites to move on to the nationals in the 100 hurdles and the 400 hurdles.

"My only goal for regionals is getting through and qualifying for nationals," says Lucas, a talented Auburn senior with Olympic potential.

Lucas is part of the most talented women's track and field team in school history. The Tigers, who are ranked number two nationally in the Top 25 poll, have the potential to do very well at the nationals that will be held June 7-10 in Sacramento, Calif. However, before that can happen, the key athletes have to take care of business at the regionals, a one-shot format that is very different than the traditional system used in which athletes qualified for the national meet based on their best performance during the entire season.

"Coming off a somewhat disappointing SEC meet, the regionals and the nationals are our last chance to get it done," she says. "If we all keep on focusing on our individual events and as a team, we will be successful."

Although the SEC meet was "disappointing" to Lucas and Coach Ralph Spry, it was also the best showing ever for the women's track team at the conference outdoor meet. However, a one-point loss to Georgia was tough to take.

"There were so many events that if just one thing had changed, we would have been the champions instead of Georgia," Spry notes.

The Auburn head coach also notes that the Tigers have an outstanding senior in Lucas, a bio-medical sciences major, who has ambitions of being a doctor or medical researcher after she finishes her degree at Auburn in two more semesters.

"I am really excited about Josanne," Spry says. "She has been one of the three or four athletes who has just been a role model. She makes our job so easy.

"I am so excited to see somebody like her who does the right things have success," Spry says. "She is one who never makes excuses. She has bad days like everyone has bad days, but you can never tell. She is a competitor. She leaves it on the track.

"I am really excited for her to have such a great senior year and to have such a banner year in the 100 hurdles where she has really moved up to another level. She has the national record for her country (Trindad & Tobago) in both of her races. She is going to be able to score big points for us at the nationals in the 400 hurdles and the 100 hurdles. We aren't going to run her in the 4x400 because with the schedule at nationals three events, with the qualifying rounds involved with each, would be too many.

Coach Ralph Spry

"I think she is going to have a super NCAA's," Spry adds. "She is running great. She has been healthy all year long and she has the right attitude. The biggest thing she has now is she is more confident now. It is going to be exciting to watch her run at the regionals and nationals."

Prior to her senior season, Lucas was known more for being a standout in the grueling 400-meter hurdles than 100-meter high hurdles event. However, she won a big international meet in that event this spring at the Penn Relays and followed up with the SEC title in that event with a time of 12.98 seconds.

Lucas now has the second fastest time in school history in both the 100 and 400 hurdles and has helped the 4x400 relay team post the fastest time in the SEC and No. 2 in the nation this season.

"I have been doing the 400 hurdles three or four years now, but this year my sprinting has been getting better," Lucas says. "Don't say that I am a sprint hurdler, though," she says with a smile. "I am still a 400-meter hurdler." Her best time in the 400 hurdles is 55.59 at last year's NCAA meet, which placed her fifth.

Lucas started competing in sports playing soccer and doing the long jump. "I love track and field," she says. "I was 16 when I started seriously training and trying out for national teams. I love the competition and I love the technical events."

Auburn assistant coach Henry Rolle, who is also her personal coach for the hurdles, recruited Lucas. "I came to Auburn for a visit and I have loved it ever since," she says. "Auburn is the right place for me."

Rolle says that he has enjoyed being able to coach Lucas. "She has put in hard work and commitment and truly believes in the program," he says.

"This season she he has been concentrating on the highs (100-meter hurdles) and she has amazed me what she has been able to do," he says. "I think she can go either way at the next level. We have just started to get ready for the 400 hurdles."

Lucas has a goal of competing in the 2008 Olympics, which is a very realistic ambition for one of the top female athletes in her island nation's history. "Definitely, especially being from a country like Trinidad it helps being the national record holder and the best from that country. She wants to commit herself to stay here and train in Auburn for the next two years to prepare for the Olympics. Hopefully, we will see how the Olympics go and she will pursue her medical career."

Trinidad & Tobago is known for turning out world class men's track and field athletes. Lucas has a chance to become an international star in that sport, Rolle says. "They have never had a female who really stood out at the Olympics or the world championships although they have had some great ones like Kelly Baptiste (LSU) and Fana Ashby, who went to Auburn. She has a great opportunity and she is so poised, humbled, focused and committed."

Lucas says she has a goal of running faster and believes she can do that. "You are never really satisfied even if you do well," she says. "There are still things you can do that will make your better. That is what I am striving to do.

"I still haven't had the perfect race," she notes. "Coach Rolle has done a great job with me and I am going to continue the training program."

Lucas says she has been enjoying her senior track season because the team has performed well and because of the group's chemistry. "As a unit we are a family," she says.

Other members of the "family" to watch at the regionals include Kerron Stewart, a senior who is having an impressive season in the 100 and 200. She is ranked first nationally in the 100 and third in the 200.

Senior Angela Homan, a double winner at the SEC Championships in the 5,000 and 10,000, is ranked third nationally in the 10K.

Senior Markita James is ranked third in the 400 hurdles and senior Jovanee Jarrett is fifth nationally in the long jump.

For the men's team, sophomore Reuben McCoy is ranked fourth in the 400 hurdles. AU is redshirting three men's All-Americans so the expectations are not high for that group this year, but in 2007 Spry is hoping to put a team on the track that can make a serious run at a national title.

This year the team with the high ambition is the women's squad. "Our goal is to win the national championship," Lucas says.

Spry says that isn't out of the question, but everything would have to fall into place for that to happen. "If we have a really good meet, we will have a chance to come home with one of the trophies (places one to four)."

2006 Inside the Auburn Tigers Auburn Football Guide

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